Sentara Pledges $50,000 to Special Olympics Virginia, Brings Healthy Athletes Program to Hampton Roads

Special Olympics Virginia received a $50,000 grant in 2023 from the Sentara Health, a not-for-profit health system headquartered in Norfolk, Virginia. Sentara Health focuses on advancing health equity and ensuring all members of our communities have access to the resources they need to live their healthiest and most fulfilling lives.

“As with all of us, our athletes’ health is essential to success. We are so grateful for this partnership with Sentara, which helps to ensure that our 18,000 athletes can bring their best in sports, at school, at their job, in their communities. . . in all aspects of their lives,” said David Thomason, President of Special Olympics Virginia. “Our shared mission of accessible healthcare for all, coupled with this tremendous support will greatly expand our reach and strengthen our impact as we continue addressing the healthcare disparities for those with intellectual disabilities, and providing life changing (and sometimes lifesaving) assessments and healthcare for our athletes.”

In partnership with Special Olympics Virginia, Sentara hosted a MedFest for the first time in the Hampton Roads. Sentara physicians, athletic trainers, nurses and other medical staff volunteeredto conduct pre-participation physicals at South Plaza Middle School in Virginia Beach on March 25 and saw over 100 athletes. A second MedFest will take place this fall with a date to be determined.

"As part of our commitment to listening to our neighbors, Sentara conducts community health needs assessments and focus groups to learn about what matters most to the communities we serve,” said Sherry Norquist, Sentara Healthcare Executive Director for Community Engagement. “We heard from individuals all across Virginia and North Carolina that their highest priorities include access to screenings, annual check-ups, fresh foods, and education and awareness around health issues.”

MedFest examinations help make it possible for hundreds of athletes to join sports training programs safely. Offering free pre-participation sports physicals allows people with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to become a Special Olympics athlete and provides individuals who are already Special Olympics athletes the opportunity to remain athletes by supplying the necessary re-qualification physical examination, as well as advice on how to improve their health.

MedFest is part of Healthy Athletes, which offers free health screenings and education to athletes in a welcoming, fun environment. In Virginia, dental, vision, fitness and hearing screenings are conducted at Summer Games each June, but the goal is to continue to expand the program, thanks to partnerships like these.

Read more about our Healthy Athletes programming and stay tuned for more details about Healthy Athletes opportunities across Virginia.